Situational Leadership

One of the well-accepted models of leadership is the so-called ''situational'' leadership paradigm [5.8]. The premise of this model is fundamentally that leaders choose or select a leadership ''style'' that depends upon the situation in which they find themselves. The situations are characterized by two basic behavior dimensions, namely, (1) task or directive behavior, and (2) relationship or supportive behavior. In both cases, the leader correctly perceives the situation and modifies behavior to suit the circumstances.

If we form a scale from low to high for both task and relationship behavior, we can visualize the following four situations that describe the fundamentals of the situational leadership model:

Situation 1 (S1): High task, low relationship

Situation 2 (S2): High task, high relationship

Situation 3 (S3): High relationship, low task

Situation 4 (S4): Low relationship, low task

For S1, there is a high need to direct the behavior of subordinates, who generally are characterized by a low level of maturity. At the same time, the situation does not call necessarily for a close or supportive relationship during the execution of the work. In this type of situation, the leader is ''telling'' the followers what has to be done and is closely supervising the work as it is being performed. The argument is that the leader is selecting this mode of behavior because that is what is called for in this type of situation.

In situation 2 (S2), the task behavior is also high (follower maturity is low), but there is a high need for relationship and supportive behavior. In such a case, also recognized by the leader, he or she is ''selling'' by making sure that decisions are understood and that all questions are appropriately answered. The followers need to be ''sold,'' so to speak, partly because they are not mature and partly because they require close contact with the leader.

In the third situation (S3), relationship and supporting behavior remains high, but the task behavior is low (maturity of follower is high). Here the leader is ''participating'' with the subordinates by sharing ideas and encouraging inputs and ideas to facilitate the decision-making process. The leader and followers are more in a collaborative type of relationship, with each making distinct progress through such an interaction.

Finally, in the last situation (S4), both the relationship (supporting) and task (directive) behaviors are low and the follower level of maturity is high. Here the leader is ''delegating'' a great deal of responsibility to the subordinates, feeling confident that they are capable of carrying out the various required tasks without much supervision. The leader is more of an observer and monitor, and the followers have the skills and perspectives for almost independent progress.

This situational model, then, is characterized by a conscious change of behavior on the part of the leader, adapting a leadership style that is tuned to the situation at hand. If the followers are not homogeneous in their capabilities and needs, the leader treats certain of them in one way (e.g., telling) and others in another way (e.g., delegating). In summary, the leader assumes the following roles for the four situations:

We note that there is little emphasis, in this model, on the specific attributes of the leader. The qualities or traits of a leader are basically not addressed, other than that he or she is able to perceive situations and modify behavior in response to these situations. The following section explores the matter of the characteristics of a leader.

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Project Management Made Easy

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